This is part 1 of the 5-part Bible study Knowing God’s Word. This study seeks to understand how knowing the Bible bring us close to God and responding to God’s will. Click here to join the Thomas Nelson Bible email list and receive the full 5-part Bible study.
The Revelation of God’s Word
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Revelation may be defined as that process by which God imparted to human beings truths they otherwise could not know. The details of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 are an example of revelation. As the first human was not created until the sixth day, we could not have possibly known the events occurring prior to this until God gave the facts to Moses. We know God spoke to the human authors of our Bible; but just how did He speak? Was it in Hebrew? Greek? Angelic language? He spoke to them in their own language. God’s call to young Samuel in the temple (1 Samuel 3:1–10) proves this, for the boy at first mistook God’s voice for that of the aged priest Eli. Sometimes God spoke through angels: Gabriel was sent from heaven to tell Mary she would give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:26–37). On other occasions the Lord spoke directly to individuals, as He did to Noah concerning the Great Flood (Genesis 6:13–21).
QUESTION FOR THOUGHT:
What are other examples in Scripture of when God spoke to humans?
One of God’s methods of communication in Scripture is to reveal His message through dreams and visions: The wise men (Matthew 2:12) were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, while Peter was later instructed in a vision to minister to Cornelius (Acts 10:10–16). God has communicated in many different ways. He revealed Himself to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3:4) and to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam out of a cloud (Numbers 12:4, 5).
QUESTION FOR THOUGHT:
Have you ever felt God communicate with you? If so, how was God’s message revealed?
One of the most important ways that divine truths were given in the Old Testament was through the Angel of the Lord. Most Bible students perceive this heavenly messenger to be the pre-incarnate Christ Himself. For example, it is theAngel of the Lord who reassured Joshua on the eve of a battle (Joshua 5:13–15).
The Inspiration of God’s Word
“As a for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”
The word “inspiration” is found but once in the New Testament. This occurs in Second Timothy 3:16, where Paul writes, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” literally “God-breathed.” Divine inspiration logically follows divine revelation. In revelation God speaks to man’s ear while by inspiration He guides the pen to ensure that the imparted message is correctly written down.
There are several ideas about the process of inspiration. One is called the natural theory. This says that the Bible authors were inspired in the same sense that William Shakespeare was inspired. Another theory, called the content theory, suggests that God merely gave the writer the main content or idea, allowing him to choose his own words to express that concept. In contrast Jesus Himself said that the very letters of the words were also chosen by God (Matthew 5:18). This position is referred to as the plenary-verbal view, which says that all (plenary) the very words (verbal) of the Bible are inspired by God. Jesus once told the devil that the Christian is to live by each of these inspired words (Matthew 4:4). The Bible authors understood that their writings were being guided by the Spirit of God, even as they wrote them. Peter said this was true of the Old Testament authors (2 Peter 1:20, 21). He then stated that his own letters (1 and 2 Pet.) were inspired by God (2 Peter 3:1, 2). Finally, he pointed out that this was also true concerning Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15, 16). One final thing should be said about inspiration. Plenary-verbal inspiration does not guarantee the inspiration of any translation, but only of the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.
QUESTION FOR THOUGHT:
How does knowing the Spirit of God guided the writers of the Bible change the way you look at Scripture? Does it give the Bible more authority?
The Illumination of God’s Word
For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
Illumination is the last of three important steps taken by God in communicating His Word to us. The first step was revelation which occurred when God spoke to the Bible authors. The second step was inspiration, that process whereby God guided them in correctly writing or uttering His message. But now a third step is needed to provide understanding for men and women as they hear God’s revealed and inspired message. This vital step is illumination, that divine process whereby God causes the written revelation to be understood by the human heart.
This third step is needed because unsaved people are blinded both by their fallen, fleshly nature (1 Corinthians 2:14) and by Satan himself (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4).
The Person behind this illumination is the Holy Spirit. Just prior to His crucifixion, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would illuminate both unsaved people (John 16:8–11) and Christians (John 14:26; 16:13, 14).
An important example of the Holy Spirit’s using God’s Word to illuminate sinners is seen at Pentecost, where three thousand people are saved after hearing Simon Peter preach about Christ and the Cross (Acts 2:36–41).
But Christians also need this illumination to help them fully grasp the marvelous message in God’s Word. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit will show these tremendous truths to us as we read the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
This study plan is based on the study commentary in Thomas Nelson’s Open Bible. Learn more about The Open Bible.